Alex James: Another assignment for a special agent

Rural Notebook
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The Independent Online

A land agent is a consultant. Rock stars, Formula One champions, lottery winners, moguls: anyone who lives on a farm but isn't really a farmer needs a land agent to take of the practicalities. There are always lots of those: fences; ditches; thistles; paperwork; trees that could fall on to roads or railway lines; asbestos surveys; frogs; endless minutiae. But life really only begins where the practicalities end.

I've learned a lot but there's always so much I want to do here that I think I drive my land agent, Paddy, a bit mad sometimes. I suppose he must be fairly used to it.

He is very discreet about his other clients but I know he built Madonna's stables a couple of years back. But a stable block, even for the queen of pop, is pretty much a run-of-the-mill job for a seasoned land agent. Stables are usually the first thing rock wives go for when they arrive in the country.

Paddy and I have had many conversations about stables. We've sort of half built a riding school but I keep getting distracted. I'm overwhelmed with thoughts of things I would like to do here. Cheese caves, landing strip. Sorted.

Last week I had Paddy organising a rock festival, only a small one, but it will be broadcast live on the BBC later this month from the sheep shed, and a little bit from the kitchen. He takes it all in his stride.

Today at our weekly meeting we were back on to fairly straightforward matters. We've been having a good go at the woodland at last and an overgrown, dried-up lake that I haven't seen for a couple of years is accessible again. There are always so many things that require urgent attention that extinct lakes tend to fall to the bottom of the list.

It was pouring with rain when we got there. How beautiful it was: how quiet. A deer bounced over a thicket and disappeared. Tidying up the woods was Paddy's suggestion, not mine. So much to do. It's constant, this giddying sense of the endless possibilities of a piece of land.

Fooled by quackery?

I'm told calling ducks are quite small but that they have very loud voices. I was almost certain I was having my leg pulled when I first heard about them but they do exist – you can buy them on the internet. If you put a calling duck on your pond, pretty soon all the ducks in the district come to join him. As I write I realise it can't be true, can it?

Logging off

As a result of the tree-felling, there is a lovely stack of timber accumulating in the yard, about 70 tonnes so far. A neat row of logs as long and large as a train carriage. Just looking at it makes me feel good. Make order out of chaos: nothing else matters.

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